James Carnes

Head of global design, Adidas

James Carnes
[Illustration by Mark Smith]
James Carnes

For leading a product marathon.


Sports apparel is usually a sprinter’s race, with new products sometimes hitting shelves in as little as six months. James Carnes specializes in a longer game–and has led three of the company’s biggest recent launches:

Springblade, a radical shoe design with 16 flexing polymer blades on each sole angled to propel a runner forward, took six years to create. Its launch last July was the most successful for a running shoe in company history.

SpringbladeImage courtesy of Adidas

Boost, another running shoe, took several years to produce but was also worth the wait. Carnes is adding its proprietary cushioning–shock-absorbent foam used in car bumpers–to other running and basketball shoes.

BoostImage courtesy of Adidas

Brazuca, the 2014 FIFA World Cup official ball, was tested by more than 600 top athletes during its three-year development. The aerodynamic design and grippy material enable more-­dazzling dribbling, passing, and shooting than its predecessors, and maintains the same weight when wet. To hype it, ­Adidas built one with six HD cameras inside, then had the pros kick it around.

BrazucaImage courtesy of Adidas

The company expects to sell millions of Brazucas, which will contribute to an anticipated $2.7 billion in soccer revenue this year. “I have a few key mantras right now,” Carnes says. “Intuitive, premium, precise, and innovative.”

About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug.